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Reasons & Remarks: The Birth of PVA

Reprinted from PN/Paraplegia News February 2016

We should take great pride in the contribution of the men who created us and what they gave us to work with and to grow

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Communication is the most important action that takes place between people. Its importance in historical documentation describes significant events that have taken place in the past. Well-done communication documents time, place, people, events and myriad other things.

This issue of PN is significant because it marks the 70th year of the beginning of Paralyzed Veterans of America (PVA). The importance of that can’t be realized unless you understand what led up to the beginning of PVA.

Most of us know PVA was started in 1947. However, the circumstances surrounding that have, for the most part, been lost and would remain so without that important factor —communication.

In the research we’ve been doing in the archives, we’ve found that PN predates the creation of PVA by several months. Fortunately, all of the editors of PN  have been religious about saving past issues of the magazine. While the time is long gone, the places changed, the people are no longer with us and the events are history, we have documentation in the magazines that recorded what has occurred since 1946.  

John Price and Byron Deysher put out a newsletter at the Bronx Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Hospital in New York in July 1946. It was titled The Paraplegia News. By the December issue, it increased to five pages and the only editor was quadriplegic Price. In each issue, he urged the creation of an association that would join the independent groups at the various VA hospitals to combine their various clubs, groups, etc., into one entity. 

At that time, there were groups of paralyzed veterans all over the United States at various VA hospitals. Most of the hospitals no longer exist and the majority of the groups also no longer exist. Many of our current chapters were made up of a consolidation of paralyzed groups named after the VA hospital at which they were located. Price’s newsletter apparently made it to all of them, and the desire to consolidate into a national organization was overwhelming.

Price continued writing his newsletter and in 1947, issues covering January, February, and April were printed. Price didn’t put out a March 1947 issue. This was likely because of an event which occurred in February 1947.  

That event was the decision of the various clubs, chapters, etc., to meet at the Hines VA Hospital in Chicago on Feb. 7, 1947. Their purpose was to form a national organization.  Representatives from seven groups attended.  An eighth group sent a letter indicating their support, but inability to attend.   

The groups which attended represented some of the existing chapters, but because of the many different hospitals that had paralyzed representatives, several later merged to become one chapter. This meeting was to be called the Formative Meeting and the eight chapters the Formative Chapters.

Several important decisions were made at the Formative Meeting. The most important was the forming of a national organization. It was accompanied by the Articles of Incorporation and Bylaws. Four Resolutions also were created at the meeting. The dedication and seriousness of the veterans attending the meeting is documented by stating that the delegates from the Forming Chapters worked through the nights of Feb. 7-8 and into Feb. 9 forming the Bylaws, the Articles of Incorporation and the Four Resolutions.

The name of the organization was The Paralyzed Veterans Associations of America and the chief officer was Gilford S. Moss, who was the National Chairman of the Board of Directors. The first resolution was to increase the automobile grant. The second resolution dealt with the formation of a committee to report back on the issue of handicapped housing. The third resolution dealt with housing for physical therapists and the fourth dealt with research into the various fields that would improve care for paraplegics.  

The Paraplegia News was accepted as the official publication of PVA at the meeting. To quote the Formative Convention report in 1947 April PN:

“Public interest in veterans is still alive. There is no evading the fact that it will waver as time passes. We need that public interest.”

Our founders saw PN as the vehicle to keep public interest alive.  

As I prepared to write this editorial and read and reread the eight issues of PN that preceded the first convention, I was stunned and then humbled by what I read. To understand the dedication and determination of the men who gathered together at their own expense and overcame the travel obstacles they faced is unbelievable.  

The foresight of Price in producing a newsletter that circulated throughout the United States and Canada urging the creation of a national organization is remarkable. His pride in his contribution is evident when you see the heading of the April 1947 issue which reads “Published by the Paralyzed Veterans Associations of America.”

We should take great pride in the contribution of the men who created us and what they gave us to work with and to grow. Our predecessors were men of great courage and self-sacrifice in giving us what they did.

We should always remember that in everything we do to make this great organization even better. Let us never do anything to diminish their work.

 

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Reasons & Remarks: The Birth of PVA

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